It may herald the summer’s finale, but September will always have plenty to charm us – ‘summer’s best of weather, and autumn’s best of cheer’, as the American writer Helen Hunt Jackson put it. In fact, it’s one of our favourite months of all. Here are just a few of the reasons why…
1. September temperatures are just right – clement, but not too hot. The sun is now comfortably warm, and shadows start to lengthen, creating a wonderfully mellow light. This is the best season to take early morning walks, while dew still lingers on the grass and soft mists make a romantic picture of the landscape. The last of the long evenings seem so much more precious for being few in number, so think of inventive ways to make the most of your outdoor space – whether that’s a final hurrah for the barbecue to celebrate the autumn equinox (on the 22nd) or a feast on Michaelmas Day (on the 29th; in olden times, Michaelmas feasts were held to bring prosperity for the coming year).
2. It’s the month to go foraging for nuts and berries. Woodlands and hedgerows are full of blackberries and hazelnuts, and old-fashioned wild ingredients like damsons, sloes, elderberries and wild strawberries are also in season. Take a tub or two on country walks and bring things home for culinary adventures – just remember to leave enough behind for wildlife.
3. Foraged or not, autumn fruit is now ripe for preserving and baking. The first apple pie or blackberry crumble of the season is always a cause for celebration, and the scent of baking around the house brings the sense of cosiness that we crave at this time of year, particularly on one of September’s drabber days. On warmer afternoons though, seasonal fruits like figs and blackberries make great additions to salads, but keen cooks can use them to prepare jams and chutneys for their winter larders too. The occasion of Harvest Festival this month brings a host of celebratory food festivals and markets at which to seek out seasonal ingredients.
4. While we’re still not quite ready to kiss goodbye to summer – it’s not officially autumn until the equinox, on the 22nd – our minds are starting to turn back to home comforts. There’s bound to be at least one September day where you think about lighting the fire for the first time, curling up with a mug of hot chocolate and a cashmere throw or lighting a scented candle on a dusky evening. All are simple pleasures that make us happier about the onset of autumn.
5. Nature is a riot of colour in September, which means it’s time to try a little of what the Americans call ‘leaf peeping’. This means observing the rapid changes in autumn foliage – from yellow to fiery red and earthy brown (the drier the weather, the redder the leaves will go). Whether you do this at an arboretum, in a nearby woodland or simply in your local park, it will put you back in tune with the season and you’ll return home with lots of colour inspiration.